• Charlie Vogelsang

Hand Rolled Cigarette (2020) Review

Chan Kin-long makes his directing debut with Hand Rolled Cigarette, which follows an ex-soldier turned triad wannabe who reluctantly protects a South Asian immigrant.

Hand Rolled Cigarette revolves around Kwan Chiu (played by Gordon Lam) who leads a gritty noir film about an ex-soldier who gets caught up with gangsters. However, his real trouble arrives when he agrees to shelter a young South Asian thief called Mani (played by Bipin Karma) who steals cocaine from the same set of gangsters that Chiu also works with.

Despite starting off their friendship with Chiu being racist and discriminatory towards Mani, the two begin to find common ground and build a connection. Chiu is soon faced with many difficult choices and is driven to save Mani from his fate.

This could be a new turning point in Hong Kong cinema

It’s clear from the start that this film is a throwback to the classic Hong Kong crime and noir films of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Thankfully, Hand Rolled Cigarette manages to do justice to these releases in delivering a tense and mesmerising atmosphere blended with brilliant moments of action and dark comedy.

All the actors in this film are incredible, but Gordon Lam is truly marvellous. Every minute he is on screen, you cannot help but be drawn to him and blown away by his range of emotions throughout. He can go from charming to serious in an instant and it’s amazing to watch.

While there is tension and action going on throughout the movie, it’s the relationship between Chiu and Mani throughout that is the most captivating to watch. Both of these characters have fallen through the cracks of society but neither are ultimately bad people.

Every scene is perfectly orchestrated, with both the violent fight scenes and nuanced moments mixing together perfectly. From the cinematography to the sound design, Hand Rolled Cigarette truly showcases the best in Hong Kong filmmaking.

There is not a dull moment in the film and it’s absolutely enthralling. With this being the first film for Chan Kin-long, there is certainly a huge future ahead for this amazing director - and this could be a new turning point in Hong Kong cinema.


Hand Rolled Cigarette is showcasing at Focus Hong Kong's Making Waves on Sunday 10 July at 12:30pm in the Garden Cinema in London. Buy tickets here